The Australian men’s tennis team for the Rio Olympics has been robbed of yet more star power, with Lleyton Hewitt opting out as coach.
Tennis Australia has applied to the Australian Olympic Committee to replace Hewitt with Mark Draper, with the former world No.1 reportedly citing “personal reasons” for withdrawing.
But in better news, rising Australian star Jordan Thompson has won a late call-up to contest the men’s singles in Rio alongside countrymen Thanasi Kokkinakis and John Millman.
Thompson advanced to the second round of the French Open in May before losing 12-10 in the fifth set to Croatian stalwart Ivo Karlovic, helping lift the Australian’s world ranking to a career-high of 88.
With Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic joining the list of Rio withdrawals on Friday – in part due to fears over the Zika virus – a spot opened up for the 22-year-old Thompson.
In addition to the captaincy duties, Hewitt had previously expressed interest in also seeking a wildcard doubles entry at the Games.
His exit is another big blow to the team after the nation’s top two male players, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, withdrew from contention.
The controversial duo both made themselves unavailable for selection after engaging in spats with Australian team chef de mission Kitty Chiller.
Hewitt is a three-time Olympian, having donned the green and gold at the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Games.
His most successful campaign came at the 2012 London Games, when he went down in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the third round of the singles and also advanced to the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles with Samantha Stosur.
Australia’s women’s team should be much stronger than the men’s outfit in Rio, with Stosur and Daria Gavrilova both entered in the singles and doubles.